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Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) Institute: An AASHTO Center for Excellence
Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) Institute: An AASHTO Center for Excellence

Legislation & Regulations

A final update to this content was completed in March 2022.

State and Local Legislation

Toll Road Legislation

When a state or local government embarks on a toll road program, it is likely that new legislation will be required to allow the collection of tolls (typically this is banned on the majority of public sector roads.) Similarly, if private sector involvement is considered, this often needs specific enabling legislation.

Although each agency's enabling act is unique in some way, the following provisions are common:

  • Creation of an authority or commission, including the legal name and nature of the newly created entity
  • Scope, purpose, and function of the new entity
  • Definition of terms
  • Delineation of district within which the entity operates
  • Details about the entity's governing board, including the number, composition, selection or appointment process, compensation, and term of members, voting/procedural rules for governing board action, and meeting requirements
  • The legal powers of the commission/authority, including the ability to establish rules and regulations, hire employees, sue and be sued, enter into contracts, construct facilities, acquire property, use the power of eminent domain, and impose fees
  • The authority to issue and refund bonds and use tolls and revenues in associated trust indentures
  • The authority to set and revise tolls and any applicable guidelines or formulas
  • The ability to invest bond proceeds
  • Administrative requirements, which may include periodic audits, competitive bidding, annual reports, public notice and/or hearing requirements
  • Any constraints or rules on the use of funds
  • The rights and remedies of bondholders
  • Tax-exempt status of authority property and bonds
  • The venue and jurisdiction of legal actions against the authority/commission
  • Police powers
  • Operating, maintenance, and repair obligations
  • Relationship to other entities, e.g., for oversight, reporting, etc.

The Florida Turnpike Enterprise Law, Fla. Stat. §§338.01 et seq., is a sample of good generic legislation creating a state turnpike authority. The law has several different sections which govern the selection of projects, acquisition of property, bonding, concessions, fiscal management, and related issues.


Traditionally, states and localities have established special purpose authorities to levy tolls on specific facilities. States have a great amount of flexibility in implementing tolls on routes that are not part of the Interstate Highway system. For example, several counties in Florida have developed local toll roads. This is due in great part to state legislation that provides strong support to counties interested in developing toll roads.

The Florida Expressway Authority Act and Related Provisions, Fla. Stat. §§348.0001 et seq., legislation allows counties to create expressway authorities by authority of the county commission. The provisions grant powers and duties to the authority and gives state DOT powers to provide operations and maintenance services for new road infrastructure. This is an innovative measure in that it covenants maintenance services to the expressway authorities, enabling them to provide a gross pledge of the toll revenues for bonding purposes.

Under this legislation, "any county, or two or more contiguous counties located within a single district of the [Florida DOT] may, by resolution adopted by the board of county commissioners, form an expressway authority." The Act further provides that an authority can enter into a lease-purchase agreement with FDOT which performs certain operational functions on the facility under lease from the authority; upon completion of the lease agreement, title to the facility is transferred to the state. Dade County Expressway Authority in the Miami area is governed by the terms of Chapter 348, Part I, and future toll authorities will be subject to its provisions. Most of Florida's existing toll authorities were created before the 1990 enactment of this legislation.


The following statutes from Minnesota provide the legal framework for implementing toll roads in that state.
160.85 Authority for toll facility.
160.86 Toll facility development agreements; mandatory provisions.
160.87 Toll facility cost recovery.
160.88 Public toll facilities.
160.89 Toll facility revenue bonds.
160.90 Law enforcement on toll facilities.
160.91 Joint authority over toll facility.
160.92 Toll facility replacement projects.


Virginia has several locally developed toll roads, including the Dulles Greenway, which was one of the first privately financed highways in the modern era in the United States. The Virginia Highway Corporation Act of 1988, Va. Code Ann. §§56-535 et seq., authorized the construction of the Dulles Greenway, with the provision that it be supervised by the State Corporation Commission, much like a public utility. The structure established here treats the highway concession like a public utility. The authorities provided in this Act have also been used as the basis for developing public toll roads such as the Chesapeake Expressway.

Section 2.03 of the Charter of the City of Chesapeake addresses the powers of the city. It includes specific language authorizing the City's right to operate toll roads. The City is authorized: "To acquire, construct, own, maintain and operate or authorize the construction and maintenance of roads within the city limits, and to charge or authorize the charging of tolls for use of such roads by the public, and to require compensation for such use by public utility, transmission or transportation companies, except as the right to require such compensation is affected by any contract heretofore or hereafter made with the company concerned."